The success of the Gold3 variety of kiwifruit has led to a Franklin kiwifruit packing company expanding its operation.
Punchbowl has invested in new packhouse and coolstore technology at its Glenbrook base to help keep up with the demand for Gold3.
Punchbowl executive chairman Rob Craig has been involved in the company for more than 35 years.
Craig said the new Gold3 variety was 25 per cent more productive than the old gold Hort16A variety.
In 2011, the old gold Hort16A variety was wiped out by the bacterial disease PSA.
“Our volume is just continually increasing and so we’re now at a stage where we need to expand our coolstores and expand our fruit packing capability in the packhouse,” Craig said.
The new gold variety is owned by Zespri, and growers purchase a lease off them to grow it.
The response to PSA had been managed well, Crag said, although there’s always a risk of future disease.
Punchbowl was estimated to produce 2.3 million trays this year and expected to increase its volume over the next four years.
Chile, New Zealand’s main competitor in the Kiwifruit industry, wasn’t faring as well, Craig said.
“Their kiwifruit industry is in disarray, vines are coming out of the ground and they’re losing money.
“New Zealand is the only industry really booming at kiwifruit at the moment.”
Punchbowl’s new packhouse technology was made and tested by French fruit and vegetable handling equipment manufacturers, MAF Roda.
In February, French engineers started installing the new machinery – upgrading technology that was almost 35 years old.
“What we had before was a bit of an antique,” Craig said.
“You don’t do major expansions that often, our attitude is we have to be at the front end of technology when we do that expansion.”
New coolstore facilities opened last month, and they include a new storage system and more environmentally friendly cooling technology.
“This game is all about preserving the quality of fruit as best we can,” Craig said.
Punchbowl employs around 200 employees and packs for more than 30 growers in Kumeu, Helensville, Whangarei and Franklin.
Franklin was a small growing area by industry standards – between three and four per cent of the New Zealand market, Craig said.
However, he said the encroachment of Auckland on country areas such as Franklin did pose a risk in the future.
“We see a very good future for kiwifruit in this area, and it’s capable of growing substantially in the area – which means growing our employment base as well.”